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The Royal Ontario Museum Publishes Cloth that Changed the World: The Art and Fashion of Indian Chintz


The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is pleased to announce the publication of Cloth that Changed the World: The Art and Fashion of Indian Chintz on December 2, 2019. The collection of essays explores the far-reaching influence this vividly printed and painted cotton cloth has had on the world, from its origins 5,000 years ago to its place in fashion and home décor today. The volume is the official companion to the ROM-original exhibition The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons, which runs from April 4 to September 27, 2020 in Toronto.

The scholarly and beautifully illustrated publication draws from the Royal Ontario Museum’s own Indian chintz collection, which ranks as one of the best in the world. Featuring extensive new research, this multidisciplinary book traces the story of chintz and the indelible footprint it has left on the world. The publication combines vivid field photography of artisans at work with striking images from the ROM’s world-class collection, as well as images from India’s fashion runways and the work of top designers embracing this heritage textile today.

“The world would be a drab place without India,” says Sarah Fee, editor, Cloth that Changed the World and ROM Senior Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Fashion and Textiles. "Our blue jeans and printed T-shirts trace much of their lineage back to the ingenuity of India’s cotton printers and dyers. This exhibition and companion book celebrate how India ‘clothed the world’ in exuberantly coloured cottons for thousands of years. It explores the art’s resiliency in the face of modern industrial imitation and shares the exciting stories of reviving natural dyes and hand skills in India today.”

Contributing writers include leading experts Ruth Barnes, Rosemary Crill, Steven Cohen, Deepali Dewan, Max Dionisio, Eiluned Edwards, Sarah Fee, Maria João Ferreira, Sylvia Houghteling, Peter Lee, Hanna Martinsen, Deborah A. Metsger, Alexandra Palmer, Divia Patel, Giorgio Riello, Rajarshi Sengupta, Philip Sykas, and João Teles e Cunha, and a preface by Sven Beckert, Harvard University’s Laird Bell Professor of History.

Next spring, the book comes to life in the ROM’s Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costumes, where ROM-original exhibition The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons will take visitors on a journey through the ROM’s world-renowned collection of chintz, on public display for the first time in over 50 years.

The striking exhibition will explore thought-provoking themes, including the ingenuity, skill and technique of Indian artisans; the adaptation of chintz for international markets; and the environmental impact of the global textile industry over time. With a focus on attire and home furnishings, the exhibition features 80 objects spanning 10 centuries and four continents. Religious and court banners for India, monumental gilded wall hangings for elite homes in Europe and Thailand, and luxury women’s dress for England showcase the versatility and far-reaching desire for Indian Chintz.

About Sarah Fee (Curator and Editor)

Dr. Sarah Fee is Senior Curator of Eastern Hemisphere fashion and textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum. She has degrees in Anthropology and African studies from Oxford University and the School of Oriental Studies, Paris, and in 2002, guest-curated an exhibition on Madagascar for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. Today, she continues to focus on Malagasy historic textiles and fashions, in addition to those of Zanzibar and Western India. A research associate at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, and the Indian Ocean World Centre at McGill University, Fee also teaches at the University of Toronto’s Department of Art. Fee is a past Board Member of the Textile Society of America, and currently sits on the editorial board of the Textile Museum Journal (TMJ).

About the Publication
Cloth that Changed the World: The Art and Fashion of Indian Chintz
Editor: Sarah Fee
Available at the ROM store on December 2, 2019.
9 x 12, 272 pages, 300 colour illustrations.
Royal Ontario Museum and Yale University Press.



Founded in 1914, the Royal Ontario Museum showcases art, culture and nature from around the world and across the ages. Among the top 10 cultural institutions in North America, Canada’s largest and most comprehensive museum is home to a world-class collection of 13 million art objects and natural history specimens, featured in 40 gallery and exhibition spaces. As the country’s preeminent field research institute and an international leader in new and original findings, the ROM plays a vital role in advancing our understanding of the artistic, cultural and natural world. Combining its original heritage architecture with the contemporary Daniel Libeskind-designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, the ROM serves as a national landmark, and a dynamic cultural destination in the heart of Toronto for all to enjoy.


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